Every Thursday night at 11 p.m., a slew of new albums pop up on music streaming services on phones across the country. In an effort to make sure the best and most notable albums get the recognition they deserve, I’ll be sharing a recap of the highlights from each and every week — all of the week’s amazing albums in one place. Some albums will get more coverage than others, but anything that sticks out to me during my weekend listenings will make an appearance in some way. With that, let’s dive right in.
At the top of the list for this weekend, this month, this quarter and quite possibly this year is Yung Lean’s third album, Stranger. The Swedish rapper, singer and “Sad Boy” fully breaks free of his old persona as a joke and internet meme. On Stranger, he proves that he’s an artist worthy of legitimate praise. His break from rapping may be the key to his newfound creativity. Introduced to the world as a rapper, Yung Lean drifts toward singing on nearly half the tracks — a change of pace that highlights the pain and depression that he’s often rapped about in previous projects. Backed by complexly textured instrumentals from Yung Sherman, GUD and White Armor, Yung Lean’s vocals glide like skates on ice. It’s a chilling, anguish-filled record that works as a perfect soundtrack for the impending bleak winter days.
One day shy of the anniversary of their 2016 album Jessica Rabbit, Sleigh Bells released their fifth project, Kid Kruschev. Though, for all intents and purposes, it’s their first album since 2013 — that’s how forgettable their 2016 record was. Kid Kruschev is a return to form and a definite standout of the past few months. As their most thematically cohesive project to date, Kid Kruschev brings together the quintessential Sleigh Bells instrumentals that set them apart with their first two releases, in addition to a new sense of vulnerability from frontwoman Alexis Krauss. Keeping in line with early releases from the duo, the music still makes you want to run through the streets smashing everything in your way, but do so with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. It’s their best project in five years. It’s a sign that they are on a path toward what makes them great: brutal honesty and extremely loud guitars.
Funk band Vulfpeck’s newest record, Mr Finish Line, will have your head, feet, arms and every other part of your body shaking and bouncing with a fervor and energy you didn’t entirely know was possible. Flooded with piano, bass, saxophone, drums and synthesizers, the album just feels good. Its optimism makes any problems feel like the smallest feat to conquer. Feeling down? This album will turn that frown upside down. Feeling happy? This album will take you even higher. Put on your jacket, sunglasses and headphones to blast this album and then go for a brisk stroll with an unstoppable grin on your face.
Zambia-born, Botswana-raised, Australian-based rapper and poet Sampa the Great released her first full-length project this weekend. Titled Birds and the BEE9, the record is a clear break from mainstream hip-hop sounds. Heavily influenced by reggae, soul and jazz, the mixtape dives into varied perspectives on healing, symbolism and cultural identity. Sampa flows over the production with a confidence akin to Lauryn Hill. When she sings, she glides over the jazzy production in a way that would make Erykah Badu proud. While this is just a mixtape, it’s an insightful look into what else is to come from the poet in the future.
With more and more albums to come, check back each week to get a look at which ones are essential out of the packed crowd. Till next time, happy listening.